An eviction is the legal method to remove someone who has been living in or occupying a property. Most commonly, a person is evicted for not following the rules in a lease, such as paying rent. Also known as “forcible entry and detainer” or “F.E.D.” actions, evictions are governed by statutes that set out procedures with which the landlord or property owner must strictly comply.
Colorado law provides for different rules for different types of evictions, such as residential and commercial. Because each type of eviction has its own rules, it is important to have an experienced eviction lawyer to guide the process. Any mistake in the process may result in an outright dismissal of the eviction, requiring the landlord to start the process all over again.
STEP 1 – Notice
The first step in an eviction case is for the landlord to serve the tenant with notice for the reason underlying the eviction. This notice is usually placed on the door of the property.
There are two types of notices, a Notice to Quit and a Demand for Compliance. A Notice to Quit is a form that notifies the tenant that their right to possession will end on the date specified in the notice. In contrast, a Demand for Compliance is used to notify the tenant that they are in violation of the lease (such as failing to pay rent) and must come into compliance within a specific amount of time.
STEP 2 – Eviction Filed in Court
After the notice has been (1) placed on the property, (2) the appropriate time has passed, and (3) the tenant has failed to come into compliance, the landlord may proceed to file a Summons and Complaint. The filing of the Complaint begins the court process and must be filed in the county where the property sits.
STEP 3 – Return Date (First Day of Court)
The first court date is called the “return date.” The return date is the deadline for the tenant to file an Answer to the Complaint. Typically, one of three scenarios will play out at the return date:
- The tenant does not file an Answer. If the tenant does not file an Answer by the return date, the landlord may seek a default judgment. Under the law, the court cannot enter default judgment until the close of business on the return date. However, some Colorado courts wait until 2-5 days have passed before issuing a default judgment for possession.
- The tenant appears, and the parties reach a settlement. The return date provides an opportunity for both the landlord and tenant to discuss any potential alternatives to a trial or forced eviction.
- The tenant appears and files an Answer. In these situations, the case is set for a future trial for the court to determine whether the tenant may be evicted, and possibly, how much money the tenant owes the landlord.
If the landlord receives a default judgment for possession or wins possession by agreement or by trial, the court will issue a “judgment for possession” and “writ of restitution.” A writ of restitution is the document the landlord provides the local county sheriff which bestows upon the sheriff the right to forcibly evict the tenant.
Once the landlord receives the writ of restitution, they must then schedule the removal of the tenant from the property with the local county sheriff’s office. To be sure, only the county sheriff’s office may effect an eviction—a landlord by themselves may not. This is called “self-help” and it is illegal. This includes other measures such as changing the locks on the property to lock the tenant out.
By law, the sheriff may not remove a tenant until at least 10 days have passed since the court entered the order for possession. If the tenant fails to move out of the property before the deadline, the sheriffs may then enter the property and evict the tenant by removing the tenant and their property.
RIGHT TO CURE
In Colorado, tenants have a “right to cure” their late rent payments and remain in the property. A tenant may pay (i.e., “cure”) the amount owed to the landlord at any time prior to the court entering judgment for possession against the tenant. If the tenant chooses to cure, then they must pay everything (including interest) that was stated on the Demand for Compliance, and the landlord must accept the payment so long as it is made prior to any order for possession.
At Burnham Law, we represent both landlords and tenants in eviction actions, including large landowners and property management companies who must file many evictions as part of their regular business. The eviction process moves quickly through Colorado courts, and we understand the importance of eviction cases to the lives and finances of our clients. Burnham Law’s award-winning landlord-tenant team walks our clients through each step of the eviction process so that our clients always know exactly where their case stands and the strategy being deployed.